Friday, October 17, 2008

In Search of Richey Edwards

Today I checked out where Richey Edwards was living at the time of his disappearance. That meant digging out his old Cardiff dockside address. Straightforward enough, when you know where to look. The records show that he styled himself Richard J Edwards when filling in official forms.

I found myself trudging east along Bute Terrace, past the Big Sleep Hotel (part-owned by John Malkovich) towards the Vulcan pub. Foregoing the pleasures of that fine boozer, I took, instead, a hard right down Pellet Street and scaled the railway bridge. The parapets on either side, I noticed, have metal spikes to deter jumpers. The graffiti there is strangely scatological: 'Woppo Stinks of Shit'; 'Ed the Poo Head'. Down the steps, through the industrial estate, out on to Tyndall Street, and I'm almost there. Schooner Way. Atlantic Wharf.

Richey's block, a red brick number, is much like all the others in the area - soulless. As mundane as you could imagine. Two bedroom apartment, no pets, no kids, no DSS. One of those places. Back in '95 his apartment block would have been brand new, part of the ongoing gentrification of Cardiff Docks. I took a few snaps of the front of the building. No sign of any Richey graffiti; no dried up floral tributes marking significant dates in his life. You'd never guess he'd ever lived here. Then I caught sight of the mini tunnel which leads to the great expanse of deadwater that is the disused Atlantic Wharf. On the left wall - Richey's side of the building - the single word 'void', has been spray-painted in black (see pic). Appropriate.

It's always a shock coming across this body of water from the north. At the southern end you're more or less in the Docks, where you expect to see such things. Here, though, you are practically still in the city centre. It's eerie. Hidden. Enclosed. Plastic bottles bobbing on the surface. I take a few more photographs. Try to imagine Richey leaning on the handrail, peering out across the water. He lived here for about a year. After he checked out of the Embassy Hotel in Bayswater, it was to this address that he drove. When, after several days, there was no sign of him, his father had to break down the door of his flat. Richey was gone, of course.

Half-an-hour later and I'm sitting in the Vulcan. The landlord is telling me that the Manics sometimes drop in for a pint. Nice people, he says. Very quiet. Prefer not to be recognised.